Let's Get Ready for School to Start
Summer is winding down, and the countdown to school has begun. Ready or not, school is right around the corner. A common feeling most kids (and frankly most grown-ups too) have before school starts is nervous…excited… but nervous. We all know this feeling. Those fluttery tinges in our bellies when we know change is coming, but are not quite sure what it is going to look like. The transition from summer fun to school routines can be tricky and it is felt by us all! Whether you have a little one who is coming to school for the first time or a returning child, getting ready for the start of school can bring about a lot feelings.
In my many years of teaching, I have supported countless families during this transition. It is helpful to remember that this is a transition process. Here are a few helpful tips/strategies I recommend.
A preschoolers perspective on school is intangible. If your child has never been to school, then they have no basis to form an idea. Even if your little one has gone to school before, starting a new school year can be just like starting over. As parents we are tempted to hype up school. Getting kids excited but not over excited is a delicate balance. You want the focus to be on routines that you know will happen. You could say, “you get to play outside and stay for lunch” and “you get to have snack.” Keep the “Are you excited about school?” questions to a minimum. And try to avoid sweeping statements that you have little control over, such as “you will make new friends.” Meeting new friends can be scary for some, but lunch and snack are fun for all.
Be confident. Your child will take their cues from you, so be calm and confident that everything will go well. Don't let them see that you're nervous or anxious. Try not to let them overhear you saying things like "I can't believe my baby's going to preschool!” Play up the fun activities they will do at school so they know it won't just be sitting and listening all day. (Such as blocks, trains, books, puzzles, and drawing to name just a few)
Short and sweet. AKA the first day drop off. Reassure your child that you will be back and say a quick goodbye. Lingering will only make it more difficult for your child to see you go. If they begin to cry and you stay longer, they will cry harder the next time because they will see that it’s an effective way to get you to stay. As gut-wrenching as it may be for you to walk away, while your child is crying, chances are that they will be playing happily soon after you are out of sight.
Communicate with the teachers. Your child will hardly be the only one in the classroom who could need support with separating from you. If you have concerns about their transition, express them BEFORE the first day. Send an email or make a quick phone call to let me know your concerns. We will make a plan and everyone will be prepared for that first day.
Don’t put a time limit on how long it should take. (This is a biggie) For some kids, first day preschool worries may not last beyond a few days, if they happen at all. For others, tears and school fears may go on for weeks. It is also completely understandable that you may experience some frustration when you see other children playing happily and your child is still clinging to you for dear life. Things will improve. They will get better. We will all work together to support one another, and before you know it, your hesitant little one will be off and running!